Am I disappointed that Kevin Love is sidelined beside Ricky Rubio, out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand? Absolutely. Am I entering panic mode? No. Even without its top two players, Minnesota has a roster deep enough to hold its own until Love and Rubio return.
Barring any additional injuries, the Timberwolves have lower-caliber players putting up solid preseason numbers. The one shouldering the most pressure to step up will be second-year forward Derrick Williams.
Although Williams delivered a subpar rookie season in 2011-12, he demonstrates huge potential for the upcoming year. His 6'8", 241-lb frame makes him the ideal candidate to gain minutes during Love's absence, and he started off well by tallying 18 points against Detroit on Wednesday. Williams will need to improve his rebounding numbers, however, as he averaged fewer than five boards per game last season.
Addition Dante Cunningham has come out of the woodwork at the forward position. He's pretty good-sized at 6'8", and the fourth-year has averaged double-digit points over the last three preseason games. Cunningham has been shooting above 50 percent. Love's injury could be the young forward's chance to show Minnesota what he has to offer.
Andrei Kirilenko will be yet another option at forward, as he shows more aggressiveness on the court than Williams. While he's not a huge scorer, the veteran is a machine on defense. Out of his eight total rebounds against the Pistons, seven were defensive. While Love is out, Kirilenko will no doubt be the go-to guy for games where a high-scoring team needs to be shut down.
Nikola Pekovic will of course remain at center, and he will absorb the majority of game minutes there, occasionally being relieved by Greg Stiemsma.
Rubio's absence from the point guard position definitely stings, but it's not unrecoverable. Guards Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea are not consistently big scorers—but then again, neither is Rubio. His biggest contributions to the Wolves in 2011-12 were his high assist totals and quick play creations. These two things considered, Minnesota can bide its time.
Between Ridnour and Barea on Wednesday night, 10 assists were dished out against the Pistons. Barea proves to be one of those guys that constantly nags the defense, and he's able to sneak in and out of the key for quick passes. Ridnour plays with a calmer style, but he comes through with the fading jump shot when its needed. They're able to get the job done.
Between Cunningham and Williams putting up buckets and Kirilenko and Pek grabbing the boards, the Wolves should be able to survive without Love for up to eight weeks. Ridnour and Barea can be depended on to hold down the fort in the backcourt.
Throw in small forward Chase Budinger's high point totals and Brandon Roy's spurts of action on the floor, and the offense should be set.
It may be a bit of a patchwork project, but Minnesota holds the cards in its hand for survival. And at this point, that's all we're asking for.